A good friend of mine was visiting this week. She calls me Dr. Doolittle, reminding me of my interactions with animals, so I thought I’d share a series of critter stories this week. This was originally posted on October 12, 2011. Haha my language was so much more flowery back then!! Oh vaguely embarrassing nostalgia…
Don’t be misled by the title of this post. This has nothing to do with my romantic interests (or lack thereof). This post is about animals that interrupt one’s peaceful slumber and intrude on the nightly journey of Queen Mab (see Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4). I have had a number of Romeos from various taxa visit my boudoir (why do I want to use French to describe everything related to love?). I’ll describe a couple here and save some for future posts.
In Honduras, I was popularly nicknamed “reina de los escorpiones” because I woke on the first night to first a large scorpion sitting inches from my nose, illuminated by moonlight. Upon seeing it, I calmly went back to sleep. Apparently, I am not easily bothered when I am sleepy. When I awoke the next morning, I was considerably more startled.
There was a gecko with a stubby tail that serenaded me every night with his bird-like chirrups. I used to call him Romeo.
Once upon a time, I was staying in an old farmhouse in West Virginia, looking after the chickens and taking care of a chestnut orchard. I was sleeping in a guest bedroom that hadn’t been used (by humans anyway) in over three decades. I loved it because, just outside the old wooden window I could see fireflies more numerous than the stars. I fell asleep gazing up at their dance, but awoke in the middle of the night to pitch darkness. Why did I wake up? I felt that I had maybe heard or felt something. I sleepily fumbled for the lights and moved aside the ancient quilt, but there was nothing in the bed, so I attributed it to a dream and went back to sleep.
On the second night, after falling asleep to the flashing synchronized swimmers of the twilight, I woke up again in the middle of the night. This time I was sure I had heard something and felt something brush my leg, and I was better prepared. In one fluid motion, I tugged the cord to turn on the light and flung the covers off.
Mice went everywhere.
It was logical enough, in retrospect. They had converted the old, unused mattress into a comfy nest, and I was sleeping in their home. I could hardly be upset, I was the interloper here, after all.
The mice were such a perfect part of that old house. I can close my eyes and see it now, old creaky floorboards under my feet, the banister on the steep staircase worn smooth by generations of calloused hands. The smell of that hand made quilt with its unraveling seams. Rusty coffee cans full of nails in the pantry. Warm eggs from the chickens in the predawn dark. The old country roads rising under my feet as I ran, weaving around with the bends in the river.